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How to Use Siri with a Third Party iPhone Calendar

How to Use Siri with a Third Party iPhone Calendar

It’s easy to feel – and be – more productive with Siri. But, how many times have you wanted to use Siri’s phenomenal ability to create a quick appointment, only to be thwarted by your third-party calendar? Tired of the work-around of creating the appointment with Siri on the fly, and then copying/pasting it into a third-party calendar? Read on, because I’ve tested the following solution over the last month or so, and it is consistently effective.

The Problem

The problem is Siri doesn’t talk to third-party calendars, like Pocket Informant (which is what I’ve used for years). As much as I love Siri, I don’t love it enough to give up Pocket Informant for the native calendar. But I also love Siri’s ability to create appointments on the fly, regardless of what I’m doing, as long as I can be heard clearly enough. I got tired of using Siri to create notes and then pasting them manually into the calendar. That’s hardly an elegant solution, and none of the others generally available in the discussion groups work well, either.

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The Solution

Knowing that Pocket Information syncs quite well with Google Calendar, and that the native iOS calendar also syncs quite well with Google calendar, it occurred to me that I ought to be able to figure out how to get the two calendars to talk to each other using Google Calendar as the go-between. It took a few tries across half an hour or so to get it working the way I wanted, but from there it was all smooth sailing to tweak a few settings.

Here’s what I did, using a combination of Google’s recommendations for setting up syncing in general, and a few tweaks I tried along the way:

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Set up Google Sync with your iOS device

  1. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars, select Add Account, select Microsoft Exchange.  Yes, really. (If you already have an Exchange account set up and aren’t running iOS 4 yet, either upgrade to iOS 4 or search the Google help for additional instructions on setting up another sync type.)
  2. Enter your complete Google email address in the Email field, leave Domain blank, enter your full address as the email address, and put your password in the appropriate spot.  Two-step password users should use an application-specific password rather than the primary password.
  3. Press Next, press Cancel if “Unable to verify certificate” appears, enter “m.google.com” in the Server field, and press Next again.
  4. Select the Google services you want to sync (Mail, Contacts, and/or Calendar).  In this case, you definitely need Calendar and you’ll need mail if you want to respond to meeting requests using this mechanism.  New Eventsneeds to be enabled in your Google Calendar Settings. (To enable New events, sign in to your Google Calendar using the web browser on your phone or computer. Go to Calendar Settings > Calendars  and click on the Notifications for the calendar you want to sync. Under Email check New events (and any of the other Invitation settings you want enabled, and click Save.)
  5. At this point, there are several options for syncing (and retaining or deleting) the contacts on your iOS device. Since I set this up on mine long after establishing my contacts database on the phone, I wanted to retain my iCloud contacts. In order to do that, select the Keep on my iPhone option when prompted. This will also allow you to keep syncing with your computer via iTunes. The other options allow you to variously delete and replace the contacts on your phone with those from your Google account, or replace them in the other direction.

Set up Google Sync with the iOS calendar

At this point, we now need to tell the phone to sync the iOS calendar with Google.

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  1. Open Safari on your iPhone and go to http://m.google.com
  2. Sign in and select the device you’ve associated with your Google account.

    Set up Google Sync with your third-party calendar

    You only need to do this once, so if you’ve already done it (as I had), you don’t need to do it again. The instructions will be calendar-specific, so there are far too many calendars available to list them all here. If your calendar supports Google sync, the built-in help or a quick search online will return the instructions.

    Since I had many customized categories in Pocket Information and these don’t sync to Google (yet), and there was no way to effectively get them all to the iOS calendar or to tell Siri to use them, I have to do this step manually. However, since I already conduct a calendar review as part of my personal productivity routine, assigning the single category I typically use to flag particular appointments isn’t a big deal for me.

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    Fix the alarms and categories in iOS

    Since I wanted Pocket Informant to be the alarm manager as my primary calendar, I needed to silence the alarms, popups, notification center behavior, and badge counters in the native iOS app just to cut down on clutter and keep things neat.  That took only a few minutes, and a bit of frustration as I dealt with duplicate alarms because I chose to make all of these changes during a time of the day where I have recurrent reminders set. I also changed the default colors for the iOS default categories to match the same colors I use in Pocket Informant, which further reduced the changes I needed to make when minor final tweaks to a voice-created appointment were processed.

    Once consistent snag I seem to encounter is recurrent alarms that were set before I implemented this automatic multi-sync solution don’t always go off. An irritating, but effective, solution is to delete the recurrent appointment and recreate it, which seems to have solved the problem in every case where I’ve tried it.

    You can read more about Siri’s effectiveness in CM Smth’s Lifehack article, 30 Days with Siri.

    Featured photo credit: Annette Shaff / Shutterstock.com and inline photo by junyaogura via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)<

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2019

    11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

    11 Meeting Scheduler Apps to Boost Your Productivity

    Automations are key to improving efficiency. Set the system up right from the beginning and you’ll reduce the amount of no-shows and cancellations.

    Whatever your business is, with automations, meeting scheduler apps do more than just streamline appointment setting. They prime your workflow for maximum results.

    Meeting scheduler apps are awesome if you use them right. Use them wrong and you can look like an arrogant elitist.

    In this article, I will share with you 11 great meeting scheduler apps you can start using today to boost your productivity.

    1. ScheduleOnce

      ScheduleOnce is an industry leader and robust solution. Whether you work alone or have a large team, ScheduleOnce can support you.

      ScheduleOnce allows you to create multiple users and multiple calendars. I use one calendar for booking podcast guests with automations set up to prep my guests for our interview. I use another calendar for strategy sessions and coaching calls.

      ScheduleOnce also has embeddable widgets so you can keep the scheduler inside your own website.

      Starting at $7 a month and a 14 day free trial, ScheduleOnce can fit a variety of needs in business.

      Available on Web

      2. Calendly

        Calendly stands out for its clean, easy to use interface. If you like clean design, Calendly might be your choice. It too has robust automations and integrations for individuals and teams alike.

        You can try Calendly free for 14 days. Their basic plan is free while their most robust plan is only $12 a month.

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        Available on Web | Google Chrome Extension

        3. Assistant.to

          For those who use gmail, Assistant.to is a super simple solution.

          From inside an email, you click on the Assistant.to icon and pick times your free. Assistant.to embeds the times directly into the email so the recipient can quickly pick a time that works for them.

          While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of apps like Calendly or ScheduleOnce, Assistant.to is completely free.

          Available on Web

          4. Acuityscheduling

            Acuity is a robust meeting scheduler very similar to ScheduleOnce. It integrates with CRMs, Email Marketing platforms, Analytics tools and accounting software.

            It comes with a 14 day free trial. They have a free solo account but if you want the benefit of the integrations, you’ll start as low as $15 a month and can cost up to $50 a month.

            Available on Web | iOS | Android

            5. Pick

              Built for simplicity, Pick is direct and easy to use. You can create your own url extension like pick.co/yournamehere and it integrates with Google calendar and Office 365.

              At $3 a month, this is a great tool for quick scheduling.

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              Available on Web

              6. X.ai

                For those who are early adopters of AI, this may be the solution for you. X.ai created two AI assistants they call Amy and Andrew Ingram. After setting up your account you simply CC them on your emails with the person you’re wanting to schedule and the AI assistants will email your guests from there until your appointment is set.

                This type of scheduler feels more personal because of the dialogue. There are stories on their site of people thinking Amy and Andrew are real people. X.ai integrates with Google, Office 365 and Outlook.

                Starting at $29 a month for an Individual account and $39 a month per user for a Team account, Amy and Andrew are ready to schedule meetings for you. Want to try it out first? They do have a free trial.

                Available on Web

                7. YouCanBook.me

                  is another competitive solution for scheduling meetings online. You can manage the calendars of your entire team, configure booking forms, and integrate with your calendar.

                  They have a free account branded with their company name or you can have some control over your branding and appearance at $10 a month for all their features. Either way, this company is worth a look.

                  Available on Web

                  8. Doodle

                    Doodle is unique in the space of meeting schedulers because it helps groups of people find a time to meet that works for everyone.

                    It integrates with your calendar and allows you to send a poll to all invited. Once people vote on the poll you can see which time works best for everyone.

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                    You can also run polls for food preferences if you’re scheduling a lunch meeting or a section of town if people are coming from all over.

                    While there is a free account, you’ll unlock it’s potential starting at $39 per year.

                    Available on Web | iOS | Android

                    9. WhenAvailable

                      WhenAvailable is another scheduler that works for groups of people. You can use it to schedule a pickup game of basketball, decide on your next book club or book your family reunion.

                      Their free account allows up to 20 guests, unlimited events and one contact group. For $15 a year you unlock all the goodies including reminders and chat messages.

                      Available on Web

                      10. Rally

                        Like Doodle and WhenAvailable, Rallly is helpful for scheduling meetings and events with multiple people involved. You create a poll and everyone votes. It’s quick and easy.

                        Unlike Doodle, it doesn’t have as many features, but it’s entirely free.

                        Available on Web

                        11. NeedtoMeet

                          Finishing strong, NeedtoMeet is our last app that allows you to schedule meetings or events for multiple people. It has mobile apps, custom urls, easy polling, notifications and commenting.

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                          NeedtoMeet also allows 1:1 Meetings for things like performance reviews for your whole team. You send out the your calendar slots to your team and they can only pick 1 slot, minimizing the amount of emails and scheduling you have to coordinate.

                          While they have a free account, you can unlock all features for only $19 a year.

                          Available on Web

                          Bonus: Don’t Make These Common Mistakes When Using Meeting Schedulers

                          In the excitement of streamlining your scheduling process, it can be easy to forget the feelings of those you’re inviting to meet. I know. I’ve done this.

                          To say “Hey, schedule time on my calendar” feels colder than “Hey, here’s my calendar. To avoid all the back and forth, pick a time that works best for you.”

                          Always make sure to frame your invite with your scheduler app with the benefit to them and why we’re doing it this way rather than the old fashioned, personal way.

                          A little finesse goes a long way. Without it, you risk seeming transactional and cold.

                          Some meeting scheduler widgets you can embed in your site can take a couple seconds to load. If you go this route, make sure there’s text just above the widget that lets your guest know the calendar will appear below and to wait for it to load.

                          If you use an online meeting tool like Zoom, it’s also important to explicitly let them know the meeting will take place on Zoom and include the Zoom link in the email reminder. Many make the mistake of not clarifying where the meeting will actually take place which can create last minute chaos at the time of the meeting.

                          Should you require special settings, like ethernet, external mics or lighting, let your guests know that on your thank you page and reminder emails so they are prepared for the meeting and you end up with the best meeting possible.

                          With clear communication in your automation, your meeting scheduler tools can almost perform like a virtual assistant for a fraction of the cost, or free, depending on the app you choose.

                          The Bottom Line

                          Meeting scheduler apps are diverse in features and unique in design. Before committing to one and realizing it’s not a fit, I recommend exploring which 3 might best fit you and then doing a trial with each of them at the same time so that you can see how they feel as you use them side by side.

                          Scheduling meetings the old fashioned way can be tedious. Conversely, finding a scheduling app that works seamlessly in the background is heavenly.

                          Like cell phones, meeting scheduler apps are moving from a nice-to-have luxury to must-have necessity in the lives of productive people. As you explore your options, stay true to your brand and the tools that have worked well for you to this point and simply find a meeting scheduler app that plays well with what you have created.

                          Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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